Axiom’s first private mission to space to launch on Friday

After facing several delays, American private space habitat company Axiom Space’s first-ever private mission to the International Space Station (ISS) is ready for launch on Friday.

The four-member crew will lift off on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket at 11.17 a.m EDT (8.47 p.m. IST) from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the company said.

The Ax-1 crew members are Commander Michael Lopez-Alegria of Spain and the US, Pilot Larry Connor of the US, and Mission Specialists Eytan Stibbe of Israel and Mark Pathy of Canada.

“This really does represent the first step where a bunch of individuals who want to do something meaningful in low Earth orbit – that aren’t members of a government – are able to take this opportunity,” Mike Suffredini, Axiom’s CEO and the former programme manager of the ISS at NASA, said during a pre-launch news conference on Thursday.

“This is a historic event, and we’re super happy to be here to report our readiness and willingness to move forward with a launch tomorrow,” added Angela Hart, NASA’s Commercial LEO (low Earth orbit) Programme Manager.

During their 10-day mission, the crew will spend eight days on the ISS conducting scientific research, outreach, and commercial activities.

Founded in 2016, Axiom has the ultimate goal of building private space stations that various customers can visit to do research.

“Ax-1 is the first of several proposed Axiom missions to the orbiting laboratory and an important step toward Axiom’s goal of constructing a private space station, Axiom Station, in low-Earth orbit that can serve as a global academic and commercial hub,” Axiom said.

Though Ax-1 is a private astronaut mission, and three of the private astronauts have reportedly paid a whopping $55 million each, team members have stressed that it is not a “space tourism” flight or an elaborate joyride of any kind, Space.com reported.

It is because the crew has trained extensively for Ax-1, including how to conduct personal-hygiene and other everyday activities in space as well as emergency procedures aboard the station, maintenance and repair activities, outreach and documentation and scientific experimentation.

The crew has shared that they are bringing over 25 different scientific experiments to work on during their eight-day station stay.

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